Con­tin­u­ing the le­gacy of Sen. Domenici

Santa Fe New Mexican - - OPINIONS -

When Sen. Pete V. Domenici passed away last week, many pro­claimed it the end of an era. It does not have to be so. Sen. Domenici left a le­gacy with us. Through­out his po­lit­i­cal ca­reer, he demon­strated a spirit of bi­par­ti­san­ship and com­mon­sense prag­ma­tism. With him, the needs of New Mex­ico al­ways came first.

He set a bril­liant ex­am­ple of what it means to be a pub­lic ser­vant. Whether we choose to fol­low his lead is up to us.

Sen. Domenici did not be­lieve in flash. When lim­ou­sines were sent to pick him up, he would waive them off and take a cab. His fa­vorite food was a greasy ham­burger. He was a lunch-pail kind of guy who did not care about your back­ground or po­lit­i­cal lean­ings. Ti­tles did not im­press him. If you were will­ing to work with him, he was will­ing to work with you. It was just that sim­ple.

To­day’s po­lit­i­cal cul­ture cel­e­brates drama, cre­at­ing an en­vi­ron­ment in which politi­cians can­not give their pro­pos­als mean­ing with­out de­mean­ing the op­pos­ing side.

Sen. Domenici re­jected this grand­stand­ing. He cared about re­sults. That is the core of what mat­tered to him. He never let ide­ol­ogy get in the way of a good deal.

Pete Domenici bro­kered plenty of good deals dur­ing his Se­nate ca­reer — agree­ments that helped his beloved New Mex­ico and made the world a bet­ter place for us all.

He and Sen. Jeff Binga­man made a for­mi­da­ble team in the U.S. Se­nate. To­gether, they helped pro­tect New Mex­ico’s mil­i­tary bases, ad­vo­cated on be­half of our state’s tribes and pueb­los, and strength­ened our na­tion’s en­ergy econ­omy.

Sen. Domenici stood up to Pres­i­dent Ron­ald Rea­gan dur­ing the bud­get bat­tles of the 1980s be­cause he felt an obli­ga­tion to fu­ture gen­er­a­tions to hold down the na­tional debt. He part­nered with lib­eral lions like Sens. Paul Well­stone and Ted Kennedy to pass the

mon­u­men­tal Men­tal Health Par­ity Act of 2008. Gen­er­a­tions not yet born will ben­e­fit from Domenici’s piv­otal role in fund­ing and pro­mot­ing the hu­man genome project, which is lead­ing to tools to pre­dict, di­ag­nose and cure thou­sands of hered­i­tary dis­eases.

When Bill Richard­son be­came gov­er­nor, Sen. Domenici worked with him to im­prove New Mex­ico’s high­ways, build The Univer­sity of New Mex­ico’s Health Sciences Cen­ter and in­crease ed­u­ca­tion fund­ing for our chil­dren.

Sen. Domenici also was re­spon­si­ble for plac­ing mil­lions of acres of New Mex­ico’s uniquely beau­ti­ful land­scape un­der federal pro­tec­tion, some­thing for which he did not re­ceive enough credit dur­ing his life­time.

Par­ti­san­ship in Amer­i­can pol­i­tics has ex­isted since the days of Thomas Jef­fer­son and John Adams. To say that a po­lit­i­cal con­sen­sus-build­ing is a quaint or old-fash­ioned no­tion is a cop-out.

We do not have to be slaves to the 24/7 news mavens bent on teas­ing con­flict out of ev­ery com­ment for the sake of rat­ings, page views or “likes.” There is an­other way.

Lis­ten to op­pos­ing view­points. Do not vil­ify oth­ers. Be op­ti­mistic. Work hard. Iden­tify com­mon ground. Learn to com­pro­mise if it pro­motes the greater good.

Th­ese are the lessons to be learned from Sen. Domenici. He showed us that one could par­tic­i­pate in po­lit­i­cal life with honor, ci­vil­ity and hu­mil­ity. He con­sis­tently put the in­ter­ests of his state and his coun­try ahead of his own. That is the true def­i­ni­tion of pub­lic ser­vice.

Sen. Pete Domenici gave us a map to the high road. Let us honor him and his le­gacy by tak­ing it.

Repub­li­can Leader Rep. Nate Gen­try of Al­bu­querque was a mem­ber of Sen. Pete Domenici’s staff from 1998 through 2007.

Nate Gen­try

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